PERFORMING ARTS REVIEW: The Witches

The Witches, running at the New Theatre until 24 January, is based on the much-loved children’s novel of the same name, written by Roald Dahl.
PERFORMING ARTS REVIEW: The Witches
The Witches, running at the New Theatre until 24 January, is based on the much-loved children’s novel of the same name, written by Roald Dahl. However, despite keeping in mind that I attended the first show of the season, and that this is community theatre" this production fell short for me. The positives are few, but definitely worth mentioning – the set design by Mignon Miller was clever and served its purpose well, considering the story spans many locations – easy to do in a novel, harder to transcend to the stage. Additionally, Cassandra Pascoli’s costume design was excellent, and I particularly loved the four witches – the retro-inspired dresses, wigs and hats created a really nice aesthetic. It was, however, the direction and performances that let the show down. The scenes lacked both pace and timing, which at times made for excruciating viewing. It is my feeling that the show could also have benefited from some cuts. There is a lot to get through in the narrative" and I wonder if some lateral thinking" increased production values" and making more of the ‘storytelling’ element of the piece could have resulted in a slicker and better-paced show. In terms of performances, the only artists I would single out are Emma Harris and Jeremy Rosenstrauss, who both did a gallant job (and, thankfully, often succeeded) of lifting the show during their time onstage. A final source of confusion – the location of the story was moved from Norway and England, to Australia" with references to Bondi Beach and whatnot. I feel this decision was greatly under-utilised, and I wish it had been all encompassing and extended to areas such as set, costume design, and most frustratingly of all, the accents. I hope that this show might get into its groove over the course of the season, and that the issues with pace might naturally disappear and the performances lift – if not for the children in the audience (who, in all fairness, seemed to enjoy the production), then for the adults who have to accompany them. The Witches runs until 24 January at the New Theatre, Newtown. Bookings on 1300 306 776 or www.mca-tix.com.au

Alison Nadebaum

Monday 12 January, 2009

About the author

Alison Nadebaum recently moved to Sydney from Western Australia, and has worn many different hats within the arts industry, including actor, director, writer, usher, administrator, publicist, producer, finance officer, avid theatre-goer, and follow-spot operator (to varying degrees of success – particularly that last one). Prior to her west coast defection, Alison held the role of Producer at independent performance company ThinIce, and now works at the Sydney Opera House.